For the second-straight game, Golden State would be without Stephen Curry because of his ankle/foot injury. The Rockets, who were already down 2-0, played their first home game of the series, and James Harden treated the hometown fans to a remarkable performance. Houston came out victorious in a thrilling game three, 97-96, and avoided a potential sweep.
Harden started cooking early and racked up 14 of Houston’s 31 first quarter points while shooting 4/8 from the field. His production didn’t stop in the scoring column, and Harden added four rebounds and three assists to his first quarter output. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green had miserable nights on offense, and it started early as well. The two combined for seven first quarter points on 3/10 shooting — not only was Green 0/3 from the field; he was just 1/4 from the foul line.
Golden State quickly got back in the game after an outstanding second quarter by Marresse Speights. With 14 points on 4/5 shooting, including 3/3 from downtown, Speights eclipsed his previous playoff career-high of 12 in one quarter. The Warriors tallied 30 as a team, with Thompson being the next highest scorer with five. Houston cooled off and had 24 points in the period. Harden shot 1/4 from the field with all of his attempts coming from three. Jason Terry and Michael Beasley had six points each off the bench. Houston led 55-48 at the half.
The third quarter was close, with Golden State taking a 24-23 advantage in points. Speights was still shooting well and had eight points in the period; both Thompson and Green were able to find their rhythm. Thompson had six points on 3/6 shooting, and Green had four points on 2/3. Harden matched Speights’ total of eight points, and the Rockets maintained a 78-72 lead going into the fourth.
It was pretty much back-and-forth for a majority of the fourth quarter. The last 15 seconds, however, were tremendously wild. Ian Clark, who was huge in the quarter, poked the ball away from Michael Beasley with 14.1 seconds left, but it stayed with Houston. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Trevor Ariza threw the ball away, and it was picked up by Shaun Livingston. The Warriors had a three-on-one fast break before the ball was back-tapped out of Livingston’s hand, and into the hands of Ian Clark, who converted the layup. Golden State had a 96-95 lead with 10.6 seconds left.
Obviously, Harden is going to get the last shot and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors’ best perimeter defender, got matched up on him. James drove left, spun right (might have gotten away with a little push off), and nailed a 13-foot jumper to give Houston a 97-96 lead with 2.7 seconds left. Golden State still had a bunch of time, especially with the threats of Thompson and Green. The Warriors inbounded the ball to Green on the following possession, and he proceeded to bounce it off his foot — effectively ending the game.
James Harden finished the quarter with ten, and Ian Clark led the Warriors with nine points on 4/5 shooting. Thompson, astoundingly, had no points in the quarter, and Green had four points but also had three crucial turnovers.
Harden had 35 points to lead all scorers, eight rebounds, and nine assists; Dwight Howard and Donatas Motiejunas combined for 27 points and 26 boards. Mo’ Speights was Golden State’s scoring leader with 22 on 7/11 shooting. Klay Thompson had 17 and eight rebounds but was 0/7 from three.
Game four is set for Sunday, April 24, at 3:30 PM EST.